Today is the last day of our read through the Book of Jeremiah. Chapters 50-51 detail the punishment of Babylon while chapter 52 is more of an appendix that was not written by Jeremiah. It might have been compiled by Baruch but it is very close to 2 Kings. It was not copied but it is clear they used the same sources. And, the Jeremiah mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 52 is not the same Jeremiah as the prophet. The message or judgement against Babylon is the longest for any nation except Judah and the threats listed here are intermingled with promises of hope for Judah’s restoration. Babylon was the Lord’s instrument for destroying the other civilizations of the Near East, but she was also guilty of her own sins. The Lord would judge Babylon according to what she had done to others. Signal flags were the preferred method of warning people about an impending attack and the people of Babylon would be under divine judgement because they too worshiped idols. It would be the Persians (now modern-day Iran) that God would use to discipline Babylon. They attacked in 539 B.C. being led by Cyrus. This much is announced, and then there is an interlude with a message of hope for the exiles in Babylon. There would be a day coming when the people would return to Judah and they would sing and shout for joy. Now they would choose to worship the Lord instead of idols. The shepherds were leaders like Jeroboam and Manasseh who led the people astray in terms of idol worship. And they worshipped idols in high places like hills and mountain tops. The Israelites were like lost sheep, subject to whatever predators came their way. In this instance, it was Babylon.
When the Lord raised up Persia to attack Babylon, He intended that Babylon would never again rise to power. The city was actually leveled in 485 B.C. Up until Persia’s attack the Babylonians were light-hearted, going about their lives as usual. They had plundered the Lord’s people, but they had also sinned, and using Persia, God would punish them. The Lord’s judgement was fulfilled when Babylon surrendered and her walls fell. The slaughter on the battlefield caused the people to run away, leaving their crops and herds as they left. This is followed by another interlude, this time focusing on the Assyrians conquering the northern kingdom of Israel. But we see that while the Lord promises to do to Babylon what the Assyrians did to Israel, God will also bring home His people who have been scattered in many places. Jeremiah lists the places God will bring His people back to. He will forgive the remnant of Israel and Judah. The reference to Merathaim is probably a pun on a Babylonian word that refers to a region in southern Babylon characterized by briny waters. Jeremiah also speaks of the returning exiles bringing hope to the Jews who had been left behind when the Babylonians took the rest of the people into exile. And because of the Lord’s decree the arrogant Babylonian empire would never rise again in power. That brought a measure of hope for all of God’s people. God’s people had suffered greatly and now His act of redemption would defend them and give them rest. When Jeremiah speaks of the sword of destruction, he is speaking of the Persian army. The city of Babylon was supplied water by the Euphrates River which ran through the city, but it appears the Persians diverted the water and left the Babylonians hi and dry. Their doom would be very much like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah. And the Babylonians would experience the same kind of terror that their victims had experienced.
The army fighting the Babylonians was Persia but the Lord was the commander in chief who directed the army. The Babylonians did as the Lord bade them do. Babylon had been a gold cup, a vessel of unusual power and wealth that the Lord had used for a time to rule every nation in the ancient Near East. All the nations suffered heavily under Babylon’s hand. Jeremiah foresaw the collapse of the Babylonian empire and although the Lord was carrying out the His justice it was still a time of mourning. Now, nothing could save Babylon and her punishment could not be measured. Once Babylon collapsed it would be time for the exiles to return home and they could tell everyone what the Lord had done. Chapter 51:15-19 is an anthem of praise that affirms the Lord’s uniqueness and majesty. It contrasts the reality of the one true God with the emptiness of idols. We have seen this theme of worthless, empty idols throughout the Book of Jeremiah. Worshiping these idols brought about Israel’s downfall in the long run. As the creator and preserver of all things, God, not Baal, controls the storm with His thunder, rain, lightening, and wind. And the Lord can use these forces whenever He desires. Now the Lord had chosen the Persians to turn the Babylonian empire to dust. Ararat was the mountainous region north of Babylon, and Ashkenaz was Noah’s great grandson through Japheth and Gomer. His descendants probably lived in Ararat, as did the people of Minni, who are otherwise unknown. The fall of Babylon went just as the Lord had planned. Her soldiers lost all desire to fight and the Persian invaders quickly penetrated the city walls. The wealth of Babylon was likened to wheat on a threshing floor. In other words, the looting of the city was like a harvest, and the looting of the city and the damage to its structures would inspire contempt rather than awe in its visitors.
The Lord proclaimed that He would use wine to turn the lion that once terrorized and destroyed nations into an easily subdued lamb. Wine as an instrument of wrath was usually figurative but here it was literal. Babylon would be overwhelmed by her enemies like the waves crashing on the shore. Such would be Persia’s attack. Defeating Babylon’s god Bel was the ultimate disaster for Babylon. This idol’s lavish adornments would be taken away and its supposed power would be exposed as fraud. Chapter 51:45-53 is another interlude of hope for the exiles. The Lord was concerned about the spiritual and physical well-being of the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where the political situation was perilous. Here the Lord pointed to the future. The Lord described the terrors for the Babylonians but pointed His people back to their homeland to assure them of their safety. The fighting in Babylon would be fierce and vicious and her penalty would match her brutality.
The exiles carried a heavy load of guilt and shame for their past sins. God agreed that His people had sinned and their past was shameful but there was hope for the future. Nothing would protect Babylon and the noise of the battle would be overwhelming. People would scream and yell, soldiers would shout their battle cries, and boulders would crash against each other as walls were torn down. The noise of battle would eventually dissolve into the silence of death. Babylonians would either be killed by the Persians or they would flee to the countryside. We will read in the Book of Daniel chapter 5 about king Belshazzar and the banquet he had with his officers. Drunkenness was dominant and the feast ended with their death. Over and over Jeremiah recounted that just as Babylon had defeated Judah, and many others, the same fate would befall Babylon.
King Zedekiah made a trip to Babylon, presumably to build trust between himself and Nebuchadnezzar. It was most likely during this visit Zedekiah swore an oath of loyalty to the Babylonian king. We can read about this in 2 Chronicles 36:13. It is also clear that Seraiah, who was related to Baruch went along on this journey. Jeremiah had recorded on the scroll the terrible disasters that would come upon Babylon and sent it with Seraiah, who was to read the scroll to Nebuchadnezzar. Once the scroll, had been read Seraiah was instructed to tie a stone to it and toss it in the Euphrates River. This signaled the permanent destruction of Babylon.
Chapter 52 repeats the narrative of 2 Kings 24:18-25:30. This is the account of Jerusalem’s final month before destruction. Even though Jeremiah did not write this it serves to illustrate Jeremiah’s integrity as a prophet. Everything Jeremiah prophesied came to pass, just like he said it would. Verses 12-21 add details that are not found in 2 Kings. The temple was constructed of stone but beams of cedar were laid among the stones. Cedar panels covered the walls and cypress planks were used for the floors. Wood was also used for window frames and for doors. All of this wood was burned. There is a very detailed list of temple furnishings here as well as the bronze items taken from the temple. And the book ends with the people of Judah being sent into exile. We see that God is deadly serious about His people being obedient. He is a jealous God and He does not want to share His people with anyone. His commandments that say I AM the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods…He means it…then and now.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W